The Coolness Factor
- Here's some excerpts from a current series by CASA prez Deke Sharon that might prove a helpful tool to some of our aspiring Colorado groups. Deke knows the game better than most and shares his feelings and ideas without restraint. The short version below is only part of the story -- which will likely spread itself out in his President's blog, a popular feature of the CASA website www.casa.org. Go to the site, register so you can participate in the blog and other important CASA stuff -- and read the full text and comments as they develop.We all don't know all the answers or the routes to a cappella acclaim, but in its combination of wisdom, experience and sharing, from time to time the answers are there.Rol Sharettemoderator
Written by Deke Sharon Weve seen it many a time: a cappella portrayed for laughs in movies and TV shows as the ultimate level of dorkiness. Most recently, an a cappella group in The Break-Up (which Ive yet to see but have heard much about) proves themselves not only uncool, but seriously uncool.
But heres the thing about coolness: it doesnt exist in a vacuum. Its a relative state. To have cool, you need uncool. And whats uncool?
Well, that changes, but one thing remains the same: the marketing dollars, and the need to put something else down to rise up.
But thats OK. Really.
First, theres no such thing as bad publicity. If we find ourselves featured in movies and TV shows galore, were breaking into the public conscience. People are getting a sense that our music exists, and that alone will make some new fans (luckily, our gene pool is not filled with people only interested in following the cool kids).
So, theres hope for us yet. Keep making great music and dont let the media get you down. As George M. Cohan once said I dont care what you say about me, as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right!
Thats 2 ps, 2 ls, 2 words.Fact is, a cappella is regarded by many as being extremely cool.
I spent four years in the Tufts Beelzebubs, and we were treated somewhat like rock stars on our campus. I wont say every person at Tufts revered the group, but when youre performing to screaming packed concert halls, theres plenty of cool being spread around.
But wait: didnt I just write about how a cappella isnt cool? Not exactly; I wrote about how the media is portraying a cappella to be uncool. But that doesnt mean it isnt cool.
So how do we turn this around?
1) Dont sweat it. Theres nothing more desperate than the statement No, I AM cool! Really I am! Cool doesnt care. Thats part of being cool.
2) Do what you do well. Nothing excels like quality. Ive heard more than once I dont like barbershop generally, but have you HEARD ("X")?
3) Build your core fan base. You cant say youre cool; it doesnt work that way. But other people can, and the more fans you are, the more people you have eagerly playing your music for friends.
4) Find representation. Agents, managers and publicists can all say These guys are amazing! which is a far more powerful statement than Were amazing! Find people to represent you to the public, be it a friend of your high school group who writes an article about you in the school paper, or a professional agency.
5) Dont go trend chasing. Its very difficult to keep up with the latest trends and styles, and the closer you are to the edge, the more quickly the fashion goes out of style and then looks dated in publicity photos and concert footage.
6) Get yourself in front of the right people. Slowly work your way up the industry food chain, gathering quotes all the way. Your press kits early quotes will be from people no ones ever heard of, but in time you should be able to get some major newspapers, celebrities and leaders of industry to say some pretty cool things about you.
7) Have fun. Fun is infectious. People love live music, and a cappella is one of the most enjoyable forms of live music because its so fun. When your audience is having fun, and leave with a smile on their faces, the whole coolness issue is diffused.
8) Dont sweat it. I know I said it before, but it needs saying again. You have to be comfortable in your own skin, and if someone calls you a dork, well, shrug it off, as it probably says more about the person who said it than it does about you and your group. I know that sounds like something your mom would tell you, but its true. Dont take the bait.
And when you see an a cappella group on TV dorkin it up, feel free to laugh along. Because, lets face it: some of those other a cappella guys are completely uncool ;)